Lost confidence can hurt your career. Not just because appearing confident helps you get noticed for all the right reasons but because a lack of confidence can stop you from saying yes to opportunities.

Opportunities that might allow you to showcase your talents. learn a new skill, consolidate an emerging skill, or create a role that you can fall in love with. Confidence comes from within, but there are also things you can do on the outside to appear more confident.

As neuroscience has proved, how you hold your body affects how you feel. So, bring your heart up, chest out, head balanced on top of your spine, as if your head was suspended by a golden thread. Breathe calmly and deeply into your diaphragm. Place a loose smile on your face and take that first small, courageous step. Confidence comes from taking action.

what is confidence?

Confidence is that deep-seated belief that we will prevail. It’s a belief in our ability to figure it out and it’s magnetic. People love people who know that no matter what, they’ll find a way.

When learning something new at work, chances are that the first time you try, it will be substandard and that’s okay. What matters most is that you took the first step in establishing your competence. The more you do something, the more often you practice, the better you’ll get at it.

For example, Jenny decides that she wants to learn how to play the flute. Three lessons later, the flute is forgotten in the corner of a room. “It just wasn’t meant to be”, she explains to herself.

As Malcolm Gladwell espoused in his book, Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master your craft. While neuroscientists have now found that there may be an added ingredient to the 10,000 hours to master some domains, 10 hours of practice before turning away from flute class is not going to be enough to be a great flute player. It’s not even enough to start enjoying playing the flute.

COnfidence competence loop

The more we practice, the more competent we become. The more competent we become, the more confident we become. This is called the confidence competence loop. It’s a cornerstone of high performance.

Confidence comes from believing deep inside that no matter what, you can figure it out. The good news is that you can take that thinking in your one super competent area and overlay it on a developing area. This is because your brain likes what is familiar and predictable. That’s what keeps you alive. That’s also what leads you to feeling caged when you choose to stay still for too long.

Give your brain that evidence trail. Then you practice, learn, apply, practice again, keep going, knowing that each cycle builds your competence. As you move up the competence hierarchy, your confidence grows. This is the competence, confidence loop. Competence builds confidence, confidence builds competence.

Competence Hierarchy

Our competence evolves as our awareness of what we’re developing grows. So before we make change, we have a feeling that something is out of whack. We often blame it on the circumstance we find ourselves in. But our circumstance is just there to illuminate what is ready to fall away or to be updated or to be found.

We begin with this concept of unconscious incompetence: “I don’t know, and I don’t know that I’m no good at it.” From there we develop conscious incompetence and unconscious competence. Then we’re in the flow with unconscious competence.

How does this work in real life? Let’s say you wanted to learn to ride a bike. In your unconscious incompetence stage, you ride on your bike and you fall off. Then you start to practice a little more, and you get a little better at it. You go on the bike, wobble around a little, and fall a couple of times, but you get better. As you’re getting better, you’re getting more confident in riding your bike. You keep riding and you keep practicing.

Now you’re riding your bike, and it seems effortless. You stop thinking about how to do things. Then over time, you’re in the flow. You’ve ridden 20 kilometres, and you didn’t even notice.

What can you do to build your confidence at work?

Let’s start by opening your posture and breathing. Try and approach things with the mindset that things are happening for you, not to you. That stressy shallow breathing is going to make you feel less confident, and it’s going to make you sound less confident. 

Decide on what you want to accomplish. Take imperfect action and be okay with it being a bit messy then do it again. Knowing that when you start, you might fall and in time you’ll be wobbling around but you’ll still be on the bike. Then over time, you’re a little less wobbly.

Here’s a few ideas on what you can do to become more confident at work. Just start by having a go, be okay with it being uncomfortable and a little bit messy. Knowing that the more you practice, the better you’ll get. The more confident you feel, the more likely you’re likely to have a go.